"Nimble Fingers" doesn't quite define him! Gwilym Simcock is a pianist with twenty fingers (or so it seems) and power to spare! His new album 'Good Days At Schloss Elmau' finds him playing on and around and inside the keyboard with gleeful abandon, controlled fury and delicate whimsicality.
There are eight pieces in the set and given time to work their magic it is hard to not respond to Mr Simcock's persuasive musical world-view. This is music which balances light and dark in equal measure. The rolling arpeggios of 'Mezzotint', for example, sweep us along on a tide of ever-evolving melodic mayhem. Although there is very little overall dynamic development in the piece the emotional hub of the thematic material holds us spellbound.
The subtle fluid blues of 'Gripper' delivers a mercurially confident right-hand melody against a shadowy left-hand ostinato. The resulting tension is beautifully sustained.
There is a wordless song of sorts at work in 'Northern Smiles'. The percussive melodic lines slip and slide in the air like a tense conversation between two lovers. The final crescendo builds into a truly thrilling coda which desolves in the final bars into an ambiguous and enigmatic resolution. Stirring stuff indeed!
'Can We Still Be Friends' is the longest piece in the collection. An introspective and deeply melancholy series of reflections whose reigned-in mixture of tension and affection touches the sublime.
Final track 'Elmau Tage' would not sound out of place among Leos Janacek's magical solo piano compositions. Fluid, lyrical and strangely affecting it brings the album to a bitter-sweet close.
Hands in the air please for Mr Simcock's radiant gift!
The disc is playing as I write. It's gorgeous. "These are the good days" (track 1) says it all.
I am familiar with Gwillym Simcock's style and soundworld, and for me this album could be by no-one else. It starts up-beat and almost funky, but is more often wistfully languid and soulful, Although his sleevenote says most of the music was "composed" for this album, there is a real sense of improvisation playing a major part, which is totally in keeping with this wonderful musician. I keep picking up hints of "And then she was gone" - one of Gwilym's most memorable melodies to date, in track 6 "Can we still be friends?" - but this is not a criticism; it just places the music as that of the artist alone. Gwilym Simcock has a rare ability to bring to being melodies of haunting beauty, without resorting to schmaltz. He rarely strays into the atonal (maybe a bit in track 7, the very improvisatory "Wake-up call"), but certainly runs the gamut of all keys available (piano keys as well as tonal ones!), often in the same piece of music.
Gwilym Simcock is an all-round comsummate musician, steeped in the tradtions not only of jazz but of classical repertoire as well. If you know his work, you will love this album. If you haven't "met" him yet, and you love good music and fabulous piano playing, give this disc a go!
My one tiny, tiny gripe? Half the sleevenote is in English, and half in German, and my very limited German tells me that one is not a translation of the other, but totally different information.
I have become very fond of this CD. Gwilym Simcock's work keeps evolving, so don't expect his latest release to be "more of the same" - however good that was. Having been taken a little by surprise at first, it was worth playing it a few times. If, like me, you are a fan of solo jazz piano improvisation, get it.
I came across Gwilym Simcock whilst watching the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC. He was the guest musician at the end of the show. The piece he played was an old favourite of Stevie Wonders and I was totally captivated. This prompted me to purchase his lateest CD collection and I wasn't dissappointed. The varied tones and moods of the pieces was a pleasant surprise as very often I have found that a CD by one musician can be very samey. As you take the journey with Gwilym you are transported to another world and can only envy him the time spent at Schloss Elmau.
I have recommended it to my son as he composes similar type of modern jazz to inspire him. His reaction was amazing and he is now an avid fan.
Gwilym Simcock is one of the most talented musicians in the country, it is a great shame his Proms performance last year did not get more attention, shame on the BBC for not repeating it.
I only gave this four out of five, because it can get a little esoteric after a while, I am sure Gwilym will not be happy about the word commercial, but I think to know really come though he as add a little spice. It is funny how the talent on the Mercury prizes 2011 was awarded in reverse order of talent, lets be honest here, PJ would not know a "crotchet from a hatchet" in fact, was that a hatchet she was playing? Let England Shake
For me this pianist was an exciting new discovery, having always been a Keith Jarrett fan I was recommended to listen to him and was lucky enough to actually see him at St. James, Piccadilly, during the London Jazz Festival recently, fantastic! Decided to buy this CD which I am enjoying very much but must admit I would like more of his jazz style approach. Still, a rich satisfying feast of good music.
Jamie Cullum's radio 2 jazz show introduced my to Gwilym Slimcock, and I am glad he did! Beautiful piano playing, some fabulous chord changes and unexpected twists and turns. Great for just sitting back and relaxing with a book and a drink, or for having on in the background when your friends are round. Great stuff.